Since this is a time before recorded history, there is much speculation as to how advance mankind was at this stage of development. The possibility of some lost civilization having developed in this region is what motivated Australian couple, Hans and Roze Berekoven to sell their successful merino wool business to purchase a 19 meter ketch, Southern Sun, to explore the region for evidence of this ice-aged civilization southernsun.info/index.htm. However, this is not the source of their recent fame, operating out of Sarawak, Malaysia surveying the Laconia Shoals, they have spent much of their time searching for sunken World War II wreaks when they came upon the prize discovery of the region. Operating on information found in James Brooke's journal, they were able to uncover the location of a 170 year old vessel, the Viscount Melbourne. It was the story of the Viscount Melbourne that first peaked my interest and led to my contact with Eric Madeja at Treasure Images, http://www.treasure-images.com/index.html. We soon realized that the real story was actually the Berekoven's and their quest. As luck would have it, they were very interested in telling their story. In the coming weeks we will be filming them to put together a sizzle reel and trailer to generate interest in four-part series about the quest for lost civilisations and where the Berekoven's fit in with the other theories that abound on this subject. For me I find myself returning to the search for the Ancient Nagas that I started over 15 years ago. More to come.
Kota Kinabalu, Day 1
I have arrived in Kota Kinabalu and met up with Eric of Treasure Images. After a brief excursion of the local market and some breakfast, we spent most of the day organising the equipment and packing it up for the shoot in Miri and out on the water. On the way back to Eric's we stop at a friend of his, Gary, who is a bit of a fix-it guy, for a ratcheted arm for one of the Go-Pro's. The afternoon was spent charging batteries and checking out the equipment. We also had sometime to strategize and plan some of the shots we will need to get for this sizzle reel and trailer. I don't problems with the shots will we are in the marina but once we are out on the boat and sailing to the location is another story. Shooting on the boat can at times be problematic and getting clean audio is difficult but we have both been through this before and I am sure we will work it out. I am looking forward to finally meeting the Berekoven's and the start of this new adventure.
After a 2 hour flight delay, we were picked up a Miri Airport by Hans Berekoven, one of the subjects of our shoot. On our way out to the marina, Hans drove us by the house they were lobbying to get for the maritime museum that would house all the artefacts they were bring up from the Viscount Melbourne wreck. Once we arrive at the Southern Sun, the Berekoven's 19 meter Ketch we will be spending the next week on, we are introduced to the rest of the crew, Roze, Hans' wife, self-made archaeologist and resident expert on the Viscount Melbourne; Tristan, their son on holiday here to help out; and Phil, a fellow diver and marina resident. After a quick meeting, it was decided we would be leaving around 2 or 3 in the afternoon for the overnight trip out to the reef. The morning would be used to make arrangements for food and taking care of a few last minute items. We were also expecting a Skype call early morning with Frank Joseph Hoff. FJH is an author and researcher of ancient mysteries as well as editor-in-chief of Ancient American magazine. He has worked promoting the late Professor Arysio Santos book, Atlantis, the Lost Continent Finally Found, that claims that the legendary continent was based on the Sunda Self in Southeast Asia. The book was a major hit in Indonesia when it was translated intoBahasa Indonesia and was one of the reasons that they hosted an INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON NATURE, PHILOSOPHY AND CULTURE OF ANCIENT SUNDA CIVILISATION. The guest speakers at the conference included the Berekoven's, Frank Joseph Hoff and Dr. Stephen Oppenheimer, who wrote the book, Eden in the East, the Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia.
Just after breakfast, we had our Skype call from Frank Joseph Hoff, which we filmed although we were able to get a picture from Frank's end. Still we have the audio and the reactions from the wheel house of the Southern Sun. To add to the importance of this call, Frank was able to add Dr. Robin Harger to our conference call, who would agree to help Hans secure some needed contacts in the Indonesian government. Dr. Harger is a noted marine biologist and author, who spent 14 years with UNESCO in its Jakarta office before he retired as a director of the International Oceanographic Commission. He gave Hans a contact within the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, who will help him navigate through the usual bureaucracy. After finishing what had to get done before departing, we sailed out of the Miri marina just after 3 in the afternoon. As luck would have it, we ran right into a squall and pandemonium ensued with sail flapping, rain pounding down on the crew as they struggled to everything back under control with Eric and I filming all the action as it happened. This was an opportunity that was too good to pass up but I must confess, being a sailor that I did feel a bit guilty not helping out. We got through the storm but it was far from smooth sailing and it got later in the day it look like there was another one developing on the horizon. Captain Hans decided we would be better off returning to the marina and leaving tomorrow when things had settle down. The blackened skies continued to follow us back to Miri and when we were in sight of the shore night had fallen with no moon or stars to light the way into the channel. With the storm coming up fast behind us it was much to dangerous to try and make it into the marina channel so we headed up into the wind to ride out the storm in open water and wait until morning to enter the marina. Needless to say, we had a bit of a rough night.
When morning arrived, things had settled down and we made our way back into the marina. A few of the neighbours help us tie up back in the berth and we all settle down for some breakfast and to rearrange our plans. Since we needed to wait again until the afternoon before heading out again (this is so we arrive at the reef in the early morning), we decided it was a good opportunity to film Roze's interview in the artefacts room in the flat. From Roze we learned how they came to find the wreak of the Viscount Melbourne, a detail account from the assistant ship's navigator of what happen after the ship struck the reef and the work she is doing to preserve the artefacts that they have brought up from the ship. After the interview, Eric and I continued to film all the artefacts that were on display and met up with the rest of the crew back on the Southern Sun. Fortunately, our second departure out to the Luconia Shoals was without problems and we had a smooth sail through the night.
South China Sea, Luconia Shoals-Day 4
We arrive at the reef to over 2 dozen little fishing boat and their 'mother ship' off in the distance. These are apparently Chinese fishermen flying under a Malaysian flag to fish these reefs. They are not sure what we are about so they just go about their business like we were not even there. We get an anchor out and later will set up on a mooring that Hans arranged the last time they were out here. Phil, Roze and Tristan prepare for the first dive. Eric is ready before them and goes in with his camera. Most of the time is spent setting up the delivery system with two baskets on lines along with a floater to bring it up to the surface. The floaters have a habit of leaking so the lines are there as a precaution. At a depth of 40 meters the divers are limited to just 9 minutes so they have to work fast. As per usual, the floater fails on both baskets and they are hauled up with the line. Conditions are good so there will be two more dives during the day. Later after dark, Eric takes Tristan down for a night dive, with the lights used for filming the wreak takes on a little more clarity than during the day and they are able to get a much clearer outline of the ship.
South China Sea, Luconia Shoals-Day 5
Conditions hold for another two dives before some swells come up from the southwest making further dives more treacherous. There was a unusual shape the showed up on the depth sounder on the way in, so we decide to go check it out. We make several attempt to get a drop line on it but the current takes our line out of position and it is too deep to dive on safely. Returning to the reef we pick up our mooring line but with the swells coming in, Hans doesn't feel it is secure and we are surrounded on three sides by reef. So it is decided with conditions deteriorating we will head back to Miri.
Miri-Day 6 & 7
After arriving back at the marina, we get an interview with their benefactor on the wreak project, local businessman and owner of the marina, Troy Yaw. Later in the morning we head back out again to get a selection of underwater pick-up shots. The rest of the day and the next is spent conducting interviews with everyone and getting one last group discussion. Saturday, Eric and I are heading back to KK. Overall, we feel we have gotten some good footage and the makings of a very interesting story.